Wright For Sale
Frank Lloyd Wright is the most famous American architect of the 20th century. The influence of his ideas regarding the integration of architecture with the natural environment, revolutionary in their day, are still being felt in contemporary architectural trends. At the time of his death, Wright counted 500 single family homes, skyscrapers, and museums among his accomplishments. Not bad for a boy from Wisconsin with no formal training in architecture! Though many of Wright's most well-known buildings are public spaces, such as Guggenheim Museum, Wright was also a prodigious residential architect. The landscape of the United States is still dotted with Wright homes in varying states of preservation. Occasionally these homes come up for sale, giving design lovers an opportunity to own a piece of American design history and serve as custodians of Wright's legacy for future generations of architects. Here's a list of 5 of our favorite Wright Homes currently on the market, and a few for rent, as well.
The Cooke House (1953) Virginia Beach, Virginia
We'll start with a rather late Wright design, the Cooke House, built for Andrew and Maude Cooke on the shores of Crystal Lake in Virginia and one of only 3 homes he built in the state. According to the history books, the Cooke House came about after Maude wrote Frank Lloyd Wright a letter imploring, "Dear Mr. Wright, Will you please help us get the beautiful house we have dreamed of for so long?"
The design of the Cooke House shows Wright experimenting with hemicycle shapes. As you can see from the plan above, Wright situated the Cooke House diagonally across the lot in order to maximize views of the lake from the half-moon shaped, 70-foot "great room." Though the design was completed in 1953, construction on the house didn't start until just two weeks before Wright's death in 1959. The Cooke House is currently on the market for $3.75 million. The home is still furnished with Wright's original furniture designs, including a 40-foot sofa in the living room, and also has a spa and jacuzzi. Learn more about the Cooke House by visiting their website.
The Millard House (La Miniatura) Pasadena, California (1923) The Millard House is Wright's earliest "usonian" designs. Briefly, Usonia was Wright's alternate term for a new kind of American architecture – "an architecture for democracy" – coined in the 1930's. It's generally used to refer to Wright's single family residences, usually L-shaped, with an emphasis on the flow between interior and exterior spaces. Nicknamed La Miniatura, the Millard House is notable among Wright's work for being more vertical than horizontal and also for being the earliest example of Wright's "textile block construction" – concrete blocks with patterned surfaces that allow light to shine through the walls, as seen in the photographs below. The Millard House has recently undergone an extensive and sensitive renovation after many years of neglect. Learn more about the Millard House by visiting this website.
Maynard and Katherine Buehler House (1948) Orinda, California
Wright only ever designed a few residences in the Bay Area, but the Buehler house is one of the best. Another example of Usonian design, the Buehler House shows Wright playing with the division of space in creative ways. From the street the home resembles a flat-roofed concrete box, but when seen from the private back garden, Wright's ingenious architectural flights of fancy are clearly visible.
The house's living room is rightly hailed as one of Wright's most interesting designs of the period. It's shaped like an octagon and has canted roof, the interior of which is covered in gold leaf. The windows stretch from 4-feet to 12-feet, letting in natural light and preserving the feel of being tucked among the redwoods and oak trees.
The Buehler house boasts landscaping by Henry Matsutani, a famous landscape architect who also designed the Japanese Gardens in Golden Gate Park. In addition to the main structure, the property also has a guest house designed by Wright apprentice Walter Olds, a gazebo, a Japanese tea house, and greenhouse.
The Buehler House recently underwent a complete renovation after being badly damaged by a fire in 1994. The house has been reconstructed using Wright's original design, the original size of which had to be reduced to meet the Buehler's budget. Visit the Buehler House website here
Avery Coonley House North Wing (1909) Riverside, Illinois
The Coonley House has the distinction of being, in Wright's own words, his "best house". A fine example of the Prairie School architecture, the Coonley House was originally built as an estate and contained several different compounds on an acre of landscaped grounds.
In the 1950's, the Coonley House was split up and turned into several different houses. The current owners have attempted to bring the historic Coonley House as close to its original specifications as possible, preserving Wright's decorative touches while also bringing the home up to modern standards.
Here's a neat article
about how the Coonley house was originally furnished by Wright and George Niedecken
– no offense to the current owners of the Coonley House, but we think the decor could use a little bit of help. Read more about the Coonley House here
Randall and Hariett Fawcett House (1961) Los Banos, California
For all his alleged cantankerousness, many of the more stunning homes designed by Wright were commissioned by young couples like the Fawcetts, who were barely 30 when they contacted the architect. Though Wright was 87 at the time, the Fawcetts found him easy to work with; it may have something to do with their forthright attitude. In this wonderful memoir
written about the Fawcett House, Randall "Buck" Fawcett relates a story about meeting with Wright to discuss the site for their home house.
"When the Fawcetts traveled to Taliesin West
to meet with Wright, they took photographs of the proposed site with them. As Wright was thumbing through the photographs, he said, 'Not much beauty there.' Buck replied, 'Actually, Mr. Wright, the Central Valley of California contains the most fertile agricultural land in the world, and you should consider it an honor to build a house there!'”
He was up for the challenge. Wright took the basic concept of a California Ranch house and applied his own geometric vision to it. The Fawcett House is shaped like a U and based on the shape of an equilateral triangle. The building materials were mahogany wood, concrete blocks, and glass.
The center of the house is the living room, which is centered around a 12' x 6' fireplace, and furnished with restored Wright furniture.
The sides of the house have 15 pairs French doors that open up the entire interior to the landscaped garden. Wright took into consideration the position of the sun throughout the seasons and angled the house so that sunlight only heats the house in the wintertime. During the summer months, the steep roof shades the home and the shape of the home would shelter the garden from breezes. It's speculated that Wright's experience growing up on a Wisconsin farm served as inspiration for the Fawcett house's design. Learn more about the Fawcett house by visiting their website
Seth Peterson Cottage (1958) Mirror Lake, Wisconsin
Rates for this one-bedroom cottage, overlooking Mirror Lake, start at $275 per night. Learn more about the Seth Peterson Cottage here
Schwartz House (1939) Two Rivers, Wisconsin
This house was once chosen by Life
magazine as a “dream house”. Rent the dream here
– rates start at $295 per night.
Palmer House Ann Arbor, Michigan (1950)
The Palmer House dates from around the same time as the Buehler House and contains many of the same design ideas, such a cantilevered roof and the emphasis on indoor/outdoor integration. Rates start at $300 per night. Learn more here
Louis Penfield House (1955) Lake County, Ohio
The Penfield House is unusual among Wright’s designs of the period for having high doorways. Why? Because client Louis Penfield measured 6 feet 8 inches, and requested that Wright make some accommodations for his unusually tall height, which he did, although he was often known to grumble that “anyone over six feet tall is a weed.” Rates start at $275 per night. Learn more about the Penfield House here
We hope you enjoyed your mini-tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright houses for sale. If you're interested in seeing a more comprehensive list, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy
, which maintains a database of Wright homes that are on market and those that have sold in the past. MT.
2011 Aug 30
Back to articles